How To Prepare For An (Engineering) Onsite Interview

An onsite interview means you have the necessary qualification and look good on paper. Your interaction over calls or video chats went well. But it does not necessarily signify that you have made that cut. 

The in-person onsite interview process is a taxing and tricky experience. Mastering your technical skills is not enough if you want the job. 

Here are the things you should do before, during, and after the interview.

Before The Interview

These websites contain pre-interview research material, mock interviews, video interview sessions, scorecard rating, resume buildup, and company intel. Utilize the time before the onsite interview to get yourself ready and prepped. 

Glassdoor

Glassdoor is not only for researching your prospective employer, but you can also understand the culture of the company and what is the expectation from new recruits. When it comes to onsite interviews, the more you know, the better it is. 

InterviewBuddy

Mock interviews will build you up for the real interview. You get specific time slots to choose from, and a complete list of resources to help you with the interview. In the end, you will get a scorecard describing your performance in various areas. This is a paid site but can be really useful to understand how you rank in comparison to your peers. 

GeeksforGeeks

A software engineer who is getting interviewed for technical roles can leverage the resources from this platform. You get the answers to any coding related questions you have. You can even get the details based on the company. The website has coding difficulty standards, which is again a great way to measure how you fare in comparison to your competitors. 

LeetCode

This is one of the best websites for a software engineers to prepare for interviews. There are thousands of interview questions that you can answer. An examiner will validate your responses. The best thing about this site is you get questions of the same difficulty level as in a Facebook or Amazon interview. There are many programming language-specific preparation available.

Pramp

This is another excellent resource for taking mock interviews for skills related to software engineering. You can practice and get ready for an interview through the various mock interviews. There are live video sessions that will help you get into the mindset of the onsite interview. You can get feedback on your skill and weak areas.

CareerBuilder

The main focus of this platform is to give you all the resources you need for an interview. There are lists of skill-based questions to prepare. If you are looking to understand the dynamics of your job, salary, and career options, you can also get the resource here. They also have a great resume building program that can help you polish up before the onsite interview.

A Happy Job

Of course, the list wouldn’t be complete without A Happy Job. A Happy Job is a place where engineers can find engineering teams that are actively hiring and fit their preferences. Engineers can search by product type, tech stack, team culture, hours, visas, remote-friendliness, perks, and more. A Happy Job scan hundreds thousands of jobs every day to display the most up-to-date info.

How To Plan And Prioritize The Preparation

Here are the tasks you should complete before the interview.

Follow up with the HR department

They are the sole connection to the company at this point and your only point of communication. Call the HR person responsible for your interview and ask them any detail you need. This is especially true if you did not receive an itinerary. Ask them who you will meet, if you need to make any presentations, if there are hands-on workshops and demonstrations, how many interview sessions there are, and how long, and the dress code of the company.

Research your interviewers

Most candidates on onsite interviewers will research about the company, but few take the time to know the interviewers. Understanding the company’s performance, news and trends are essential, so is knowing your interviewers. 

Most companies will provide you with a list of people you will meet during the interview. Look them up on LinkedIn, especially their area of expertise, experience, and interaction with others in the industry. This is essential because you are expected to prepare a list of highly intelligent and relevant questions. 

Be prepared to ask meaningful questions

Not just any questions, but questions that are relevant to the job, company, and the interviewer. Pay attention to everything they ask you, and keep your notepad handy in case there is a follow up needed. There is no shame in being unable to answer a question promptly, but you should ask if you can follow up later.

Show personality

Interviewers and hiring managers are looking for people they would be working along for a long time – cultural fit matters. Show excitement about the company and your job. Ask relevant questions that are not just about the company or your position, but about the experience of the interviewer. 

Having a personality and giving witty responses are a signal for the hiring managers that they can have a good rapport with you. Of course, this depends on the culture of the country, company, and nature of the job, so do your research and aim to charm.

According to an estimate, 76% of hiring professionals agreed that they would show a candidate the door is they appeared arrogant.

Control the conversation

Don’t wait quietly in the interview, and don’t only speak when spoken to. Hiring managers hope the candidates understand the world they would be moving to. 

You should have the confidence to guide the conversation and make this a back and forth exchange, so your interviewer does not feel he is interrogating a candidate who has no interest in being there. Ask about their roles in the organization, specific questions about the company, the team, and the role.

Be prepared for the whole day

Onsite interviews rarely consist of a single meeting. You will have a complete itinerary dedicated to different groups and hiring managers. The interview could last the whole day. Rest, eat, and come to the interview prepared to tackle the entire day. Do not let the interviewer feel like you have exhausted yourself and need to be excused. 

Post Interview Follow Up 

Thank you note and due diligence

There are many well-crafted follow up notes online you can choose from. After the interview is over, consult your notes and create a personalized email for every interviewer you have interacted with. 

Add any follow-up questions they asked. Relay that you were grateful for the opportunity, and what value you can bring to the job. Keep it short and concise. 

How To Prepare Better Than Others

Here are some things recruiters and hiring managers will pay attention to:

Communication

For an onsite interview, your communication style is perhaps even more important than what kind of programming you can do. Interviewers are extremely sensitive to how you communicate through the entire process, and even small mistakes can increase your chance of rejection.

Based on a study by CareerBuilder, hiring managers will reject people if they badmouthed their previous employers in 50% cases. In 33% of cases, they will reject people who were unable to cite evidence and examples in their answers. 

Besides these, communication also counts in how you present yourself. This includes smiling, having an overall pleasant and positive attitude, as well as your core values (which should be aligned to the core values of the company you are interviewing for, research and prepare this answer well).

All these qualities set you apart from your peers, and you can leverage whatever you don’t have in skills by having a great attitude.

Showing interest

Every action of yours will determine if you are performing as well as the person who came before you. And interviewers will notice even the small difference. Make sure that you have prepared a list of questions for every single interviewer on your itinerary, or they will think your lack of speaking is due to disinterest. 

The awkward pause where your interviewer is not saying something is usually a cue for you to take control of the conversation. 

Pro tip: Do not use your phone, as a recent survey revealed that 90% of hiring professionals would disqualify a candidate if they touched their phones.

Prepare for a practical workshop

You might have given a hands-on demonstration in the first rounds and got selected based on that, but be prepared for another one. Onsite interviews are centered around highly skilled individuals, and your interviewers might want to see how you perform under stress. 

Brush up thoroughly before the interview date if you have not had hands-on experience in a while. And remember, never say you have a skill you don’t. Don’t lie on your resumes – yes, 90% of hiring managers won’t hire you if you are caught lying. Interviewers will explore every avenue before determining if you are fit for an onsite role, and this includes testing each skill you mentioned in the resume. 

Many interview rooms will have a whiteboard where you can chalk down your thoughts in full view of the interview panel. As intimidating as this can be, your attitude and problem-solving skills are all you need to pass this session. 

If you have been selected for an onsite interview, you are usually considered a highly skilled person in your area of expertise. Act like it. 

Ask about the next step

You probably want to move on from one interview round to the other as quickly as possible, but onsite interviews are specific cases. You don’t finish your job just because you sat through a session. Ask your interviewer what the next step is before you say goodbye. 

Take notes on what follow up action you need to take. Understand if there is any time frame for any follow-up questions they have and meet this criterion diligently. Great candidates set themselves apart through the quality of follow up emails and thank you notes. 

Follow up later on through LinkedIn. If this is your first onsite interview, and you did not make it by any chance, it is always great to know people who passed the experience first-hand. 

Tally what you did right or wrong as a candidate. This is one of the best ways to set realistic expectations and skill up to make sure you don’t make the same mistakes in your next onsite interview.

Conclusion

Onsite interviews are challenging and hiring managers can have very high expectations. Don’t sit and wait until you get selected for the onsite interview to start preparing. 

Mock interviews, feedback sessions, and interview questions from reputed companies are a great place to start building the specific skills employers are looking for. If you have been selected for the first round of a general interview, brush up your skill months ahead of the onsite interview, so you don’t miss the skill or mindset needed for the job.

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